So all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years, and he died. (Genesis 5:27, N.K.J.V.)
Have you ever heard the saying, “He’s old as Methuselah?” If you are old enough yourself (pun intended), you probably have. But did you know that Methuselah’s life was all wrapped up in a certain prophecy?
Before I get to the prophecy, though, I should probably say something about how those folks who lived before the flood of Noah were able to live such long lives (Genesis 5:1-32): Adam’s 930 years, Seth’s 912 years, Enosh’s 905 years, Cainan’s 910 years, Mahalalel’s 895 years, and Jared’s 962 years. The explanation almost certainly involves the “firmament” (K.J.V., N.K.J.V.) that is mentioned in Genesis 1:6-8. (For the record, other translations go with the word “expanse” (N.A.S.B., H.C.S.B., E.S.V., C.S.B.), “dome” (N.R.S.V.), or “vault” (N.I.V.) rather than “firmament.”)
When God first created the earth on Day 1 of the creation week, the planet was completely covered in water (Genesis 1:1-2). Obviously God had created all that water simultaneously with creating the planet itself. Later on Day 1 (Genesis 1:3-5) He created light — a light source different than the sun, which wouldn’t be created until Day 4 — to separate the light (Day) from the darkness (Night).
Then came Day 2. On that day God cut a firmament (expanse, dome, vault) right through those deep waters that were covering planet earth (Genesis 1:6-7). The waters that got caught under the firmament were left to cover the earth and become the planet’s ocean waters after God gathered them together and allowed the dry land (which had been there all along, buried under all that water) to appear (Genesis 1:9-10). As for the waters that got trapped above the firmament, they were left to hang up there in the earth’s troposphere (the lowest region of the earth’s atmosphere, extending upward from the earth approximately 6 miles) or perhaps in its stratosphere (the next highest region, extending upward approximately 33 miles). The Bible doesn’t specifically describe God converting all that water up there into some type of vaporous form, but many believe that He did.
What this great atmospheric canopy of water would have done was provide a protective shield for the earth. As such, it would have filtered out ultraviolet radiations and cosmic rays from outer space. Additionally, it would have turned the earth into something of a global greenhouse that probably maintained a uniformly pleasant temperature all over the world. There would have been no great air-mass movements either, a fact that might have prevented the hydrologic cycle that produces our rains today from kick-starting. This could explain why it didn’t rain upon the earth before the flood of Noah (Genesis 2:4-6).
Whatever the exact set-up of the pre-flood earth was, it was surely very different than the one we now experience. All that changed, though, via the great flood. It was during that flood that God released all of that water that had been trapped above the firmament, and those waters poured down upon the earth as the rain of the flood. In Genesis 7:11, the Bible refers to this as “the windows of heaven” (K.J.V., N.K.J.V.) being opened. By coupling this idea up with Genesis 1:8, which says that God called the firmament “heaven,” we learn that during the great flood God opened the firmament and allowed all that water trapped above it to be released. This explains why the life spans in the post-flood world, a world with a starkly different climatology and environment, curtailed sharply very quickly.
But now let’s get back to Methuseleh. I wonder, do you know what his name literally means? The name consists of the Hebrew verbs muth, which means “die” or “dead,” and shalach, which means “sent.” Thus, the name means “When he dies, it shall be sent.” And what would be sent when Methuseleh died? Yep, you guessed it. By doing all the math that is provided to us by the dates, genealogies, and life spans recorded in Genesis chapters 1-5, we find that Methuselah died the same year the flood hit.
And isn’t it just like God to let a man whose very name carried such a prophecy live to be the oldest human being ever? God is so, so, so merciful, patient, and longsuffering with the human race, isn’t He? A couple of New Testament verses directly apply here, and I’d like to offer them as the close to this post. As you read them, try to let them become ingrained in your mind, so much so that you remember them the next time you hear someone say, “He’s old as Methuselah.”
…when once The Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared…” (1 Peter 3:20, N.K.J.V.)
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, N.K.J.V.)